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Miss Anne Lewis-Davies, MA. MBE
by William Smith (cont'd)
For those of us who first went to the school in 1944, our English teacher was Miss Eveline Hinchliffe MA - also for some of us our form teacher. She was a very quiet, gentle soul, loved by her form, becoming senior mistress only at Easter of 1945 just when she gained a post near her home town of Scarborough. In September, we met her replacement: stern of face, cloaked in a red gown, she swept into assembly, clearly strong-willed and accepting no nonsense - and ARLD soon became known as ‘the Red Dragon’.   Possessing a powerful voice, she quelled any whisper with a glance or, if necessary, a reprimand which could be heard in some other rooms along the corridor. As one of our French assistants said a couple of years later, Miss Davies is "formidable".

Our English lessons were always packed with information, for she had a clear idea of what she wanted to achieve in those early years leading to Ordinary Level.   We covered the rules of spelling, analysis and parsing; produced tables of every part of speech ["Heading 'Nouns' - underline it in red", she would command]; and then came all the figures of speech, from similes to zeugma.   All was completed by the end of the fourth form, so that the GCE year could concentrate on essay writing, comprehension and summary. Equally over those years, she sought to instil in us a complete understanding of the structure of poetry. All the various types of metre were covered: iambic and dactyl, trochee and anapaest, amphibrach and spondee - and then, as "extra homework for the next few weeks", we were expected to find examples of each type of metre, from lines of one foot to heptameter.   Some of us read all the Golden Treasury and several other anthologies, shared our finds, but never completed the whole table. But I did end up with a file of notes after those three years, which was the equivalent of a grammar text book and served me for many years to come.

Homework had a set routine: once a week was creative writing or grammar related, but on Thursdays for three years it was always to learn a poem. Then on Fridays we would sit awaiting the arrival of ARLD, exercise books open, pens ready - and on her entrance we began writing out the poem learnt, as she wandered up and down the aisles ensuring there was no cheating and occasionally grunting disapproval. Books were exchanged with neighbours, poems corrected, errors to be circled boldly - and then we went out to the front desk where ARLD awarded a mark, sometimes a commendation, sometimes a book flung away with detention added or the comment of "Rubbish!" Some dreaded Fridays!

But if you got to know her, you found a great sense of humour, a willingness to guide and encourage - for she never scorned those who tried.  During her years at the school, she produced six plays, the first in 1947 being Julius Caesar followed by an excellent St Joan in 1948 - all of them rehearsed in the lunch hour and after school, props drawn from fire guards, sheets and all sorts of improvisations at first.   She also edited The Penvro from 1947 to 1954, organised the school's Dramatic Society and took pupils to Stratford to the Memorial Theatre. Those who joined in all these events got to know her well.

In May 1957 she published Up the Airy Mountain, a collection of one hundred poems for learning, divided into “First Year - Autumn Term”, “Second Term” and so on - "to provide young people during their first three years at secondary school with poems suitable for learning by heart."   In a delightful preface, she advised pupils to start learning the poem on Mondays, reading it each night before bedtime, then concentrated learning on Thursdays - then taking a break on Saturdays and Sundays.   Over sixty years later I can still remember so many of those poems.

I did not study for Advanced Levels with ARLD. She took her turn in 1947 to guide that year's pupils for two years. Then, in 1948, Miss Gibson - shortly replaced by Raymond Garlick - took the Advanced Level group. But those who did study with her soon appreciated her love of literature and her real skills as a teacher. Certainly, in one year, three of her group gained distinctions at Advanced Level - the only school in Wales which managed three distinctions.

Anne devoted many hours to organising house-to-house collections throughout Pembroke and, Pembroke Dock for a number of years in aid of Dr Barnados, continuing to do so after her retirement while she remained in the town.   When, in late 1948, the new headmaster, Roland Mathias, started a literary group which met in members' houses, she attended and became interested in the group's magazine Dock Leaves first published in 1949.   Funds for the magazine were always short, and in 1953 Anne masterminded the first of the annual sales of work in the school hall. Anything was sold, from plants to budgerigars, kettle holders, dolls dressed over the previous months - even blackberries for jam, Pupils having been encouraged by her to go out into the hedgerows and to scour the Barrack Hill for the fruit. Over £200 was raised each year. A few years later Roland wrote in an editorial: "Until 1958 there was an Autumn miracle to look for - a sale of work which depended on the toil over many months of a few ladies led by Anne Lewis-Davies and Morwyth Rees.   Each October we knew that debts would be cancelled, deficiencies forestalled."   As Business Manager of Dock Leaves, I was always grateful to Anne for her support.

In 1958 Roland left for a headship in Belper, Debyshire, and ARLD decided to retire at the same time. She immediately enrolled on a six-month intensive graduate course in journalism, advertising, typing and shorthand at St Godric's Secretarial College in London as she wanted to do some free-lance work in her retirement.   In the New Year's Honours List of 1959, she was awarded the MBE, one of only eleven people in Wales to receive the Honour that year.   Congratulations came to her from Geoffrey Lloyd, then Minister of Education,   and from Sir Ben Bowen Thomas of the Welsh Office. The photograph at the beginning of this article shows Anne [centre] outside Buckingham Palace with her sister, Cissie [right] and sister-in-law [left].

For a couple of years she remained in Gwyther Street, Pembroke Dock, but then moved to Tenby to a flat in St Julians Street, overlooking both beaches.   She had dedicated a great amount of time and energy to her pupils and long afterwards took a keen interest in their careers.   She was one of those characters who stood out in one's early years and many, like me, owe her a great deal.

William Smith
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